FKJ at Lolla 2019
Photo by Daniel Mendoza / The Recording Academy
Looping Guru FKJ Talks Improvising "Tadow" With Masego & Being "A Melting Pot"
If you've heard "Tadow," the chill-house 2018 track that served as a breakthrough for both of its collaborators, Masego and FKJ, you already have a sense of the latter artist's love of electronic sounds with a healthy dose of experimental jazz. FKJ, which stands for "French Kiwi Juice," has an appreciation for a lot of music—an exploration that began at a young age digging through his parents' music collection.
"[My] first interaction to music was my parents' libraries. my mom is French, my dad is from New Zealand; there was a lot of English rock, Queen, Pink Floyd, The Police. There was a lot of '70s rock, Led Zeppelin. And then some jazz or Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis. And then a little bit of French music, but not too much, like Serge Gainsbourg," he tells the Recording Academy at Lollapalooza 2019.
Right before the French multi-instrumentalist, singer and producer took the stage—along with his four guitars, two saxophones, two keyboards and more—to offer big vibes at his debut Lollapalooza set, we sat down to discuss the magic that led to "Tadow," all the music that most inspires him and his love of going with the creative flow.
You're about to go on stage soon. How are you feeling?
I'm feeling great. I'm feeling just like any beautiful festival I'm going 'cause I don't know a lot, at all. I've never been there before. I don't live in the States, so for me, it's just another festival that I'm discovering. I'm about to maybe understand later why people love it so much, you know? But I don't know yet. I'm just here discovering.
Do you have any rituals that you do before a show?
I just breathe a lot and I'm trying to ready to be as playful as possible. And as not serious. I want to seen not as a big deal at all. So, that's why I'm trying. My space is that this is nothing. This is just getting music to the people and there's nothing to be scared about. Nothing to be scared about what people will think or people will judge. And if I'm happy, a lot of people are gonna feel it. If I'm doing a very perfect set, but I'm very serious and I'm very concentrated, but maybe not going translate as much as if I'm just being playful.
One of your really big songs recently was "Tadow" featuring Masego. How did that collaboration come about?
Masego was opening for me in Denver. It was back in 2016. On my way to Denver, I checked his stuff out on the plane. I had no idea who he was. I loved it.
I arrived to the venue and tell him like, "Man, literally just checked your stuff and it's great." And so he told me, "I literally just checked your stuff too, and I love it too." And boom, that's the beginning of the story. And then I saw him perform and I was like, "F**k, this guy is like a real performer." He just smashed it. And then I told him, "I got a session booked in Paris." It was December 2016. [I said,] "Come by." And he was down, so he just came back, just for one day, he just flew from L.A. Landed in Paris, we did the session, and he flew back straight away the morning after.
We recorded 12 tracks. The first part of the day, we didn't really know each other. So, it was more like, "What are we doing?" We were just trying to make songs and figure out ideas.
The second half of the day, was just like, "Okay, we're stopping doing this. If we want to finish it, we'll finish it, but now let's just have fun." We had a camera guy with us. We just did "one takes" every time. We didn't know what we were doing, we just like, "Okay, "one take boom." I would start with the piano, and then we loop things. We knew how to loop everything, so it was easy to build something on the spot.
So it was you guys flowing off of each other.
Yeah. ["Tadow"] was really truly just an improvised song. It was probably the eight luckiest minutes of our lives so far, you know? 'Cause it really changed everything for us.
Is that the same approach when you're working alone as well?
[Yeah], no thought process. Just playing and recording everything, of course. And then I will listen back to it, and like okay, this part of this playfulness is gonna become a song. But the song is almost already there, it's just like or it's just coming to me. Not when I'm in the studio, it can come just for example; I'm hanging out here and there's a melody coming to my head and that's gonna become the song.
I like conceptual songs where there's no hooks and stuff like this. But what makes a song successful is because there is a catchy part of it.
That's cool. Do you have any other collaborations coming up, or people you'd like to work with in the future?
I mean, there's a lot of people. I have a lot of idols. A lot of artists I really love. But for me there's no need for collaborating. I enjoy their music, I love what they do, and that's it, you know? And if we become friends and if there's a connection between us, maybe then we can collaborate. But it's always weird to me to have a pre-made collaboration. Like, my team is going to tell me, "Oh, do you like that artist, we going to put you together a see." That's for me weird.
I never do pre-made collaboration, even if I really love the music. I want it to be a relation between the artists firsts. So, if they tell me, "Oh, Daniel Caesar wants to collaborate with me," well, then I want to talk to Daniel. Because I love Daniel Caesar's music, I'm a fan. But, I don't want it to be a pre-made thing. I want us to meet and then if we get on well together, musically and mentally, then we make it happen. But, usually my idols, I just let them be. And I just listen to their stuff over and over. And that's it, you know?
What's some of the music that you're really enjoying right now?
The album I listen to most this week was Angel's Pulse by Blood Orange. [Before], I was listening to Four Tet [and] The Lion King soundtrack. I loved it. [I've also been listening to] the latest Solange album. I love it so much. [Also], the latest Steve Lacy album, the latest Ari Lennox album...The latest Duckwrth album...
What music did you grow up listening to?
My first interaction to music was my parents' libraries. My mom is French, my dad is [from] New Zealand. So their music library was a lot of English rock, like Queen, Pink Floyd, The Police... Then there was a lot of 70's rock, Led Zepplin. And then some jazz or so like Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, and then a little bit of French music, but not too much. Like Serge Gainsbourg.
Then, it was my friends' music, which changed over the years because you have different group of friends, so. The group of friends I had when I was 10, we were, they were all into rock. So, I got interested to rock because your environments change. It was a lot of rap and hip-hop when I was 10, 11. That's when I got in to Dr. Dre, Timbaland, Pharrell... Then when I was 12, 13, it'd be a lot of rock—Radiohead, what else?
What about electronic music?
That [came] later. That's why my music is kind of a blend, a weird blend, of all this together. You can't really put one thing on it. It's a bit of blues, a bit of jazz, a bit of electronic, a bit of hip-hop from when I was 10. I have a big big Jamaican musical influence when I was 15. So you can hear Dancehall in my music, which is weird. It's like a fusion.
Many people just have their own culture, and they stay in their environment. But I don't really have my own culture. I just move everywhere. I don't even live in France anymore. I change cities all the time. I have many groups of friends. They wouldn't get on together. But I love them. I'm just melting pot.